SPFBO 7 FINALIST REVIEW: Hall of Bones by Tim Hardie

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Hall of Bones – DNF 53%

Hall of Bones is the story of Rothgar Kolfinnarson, who is the younger son of a clan chief in a Norse-inspired world of rival clans and dark magic. Rothgar starts out as a child in this one and as the story goes on he grows older, however I found these skips forward in time a bit jarring. They seem to stop once he reaches sixteen though. I never really liked Rothgar for as long as I was reading, so I admittedly found this one hard to stay interested in. There are a ton of secondary characters, but none of them kept me interested either.

So after just not being engaged at all for nearly half the book, I ended up giving up the whole thing right around the time Rothgar spent a few chapters doing all the negotiations necessary for marrying his 13-year-old sister off to a 35-year-old. You know, that old chestnut. 

All told, if you’re into Norse-inspired fantasy, this one might be up your alley. I find that it’s very hit or miss for me, and this one was sadly a miss. 4.5/10 stars. 


The prologue left a good first impression, it has a dude in a cage who’s about to die. He’s suspended in a cage outside being pecked by crows and contemplating his life. The reader is swept away into his memories of when he was a kid growing up in the very place he’s now dying.

Rothgar grew up a Jarl’s second son. He has an older brother who’s being groomed for leadership and their father is hale and healthy so there wasn’t a ton of pressure for him to grow up – at first. This left him a lotta bit immature. He runs from good advice like he’s paid to go as fast as possible in the opposite direction. He doesn’t think through what his actions could cause down the line, up to and including getting his girlfriend pregnant. “Never given it a moment’s thought” – and like bro, I know you’re 16, but that’s a bit haphazard attitude even for your age.

Anywho, his dad gets crippled, shit goes wrong, another clan is going through chaos as some patricide/regicide happens and leadership turned over. Now his own clan is going to have leadership turnover and his responsibilities just got kicked up a notch. He’s been betrothed since he was 10 and he’s unhappy about it since she pissed him off one time by being rude? That also seems a bit immature thinking that someone is going to be the same person at 16 as they were when they were 10 years old. I was not keen on this dude as a teen but events move fast and we don’t see much of him at this age.

The beginning was very plot heavy as we move from one age to the next, 7 years old, 10 years old, then 16 all within the first 10% of the book. That didn’t really leave any time for me to breathe and get attached to anything. For me, it was a detached way of story telling and there’s not necessarily anything wrong with that. It felt like a deliberate stylistic choice and it just didn’t work for me. These are the kinds of stories you tell around a campfire and it felt old school for the entirety of the book. However, my investment in the characters is critical to my investment into the story and with events blowing by so quickly I didn’t get a chance to really sink into the characters or story. So, as far as the pacing it was a little bit like hurry up and wait. It took about 50% of the book before magic really became relevant – and again this is a personal taste thing. I did like the magic when it showed up, I like witches and skin crawlers and all that kind of stuff.

The prose was pretty okay, but for reasons that are totally personal it didn’t completely work for me. I have a lot of trouble visualizing things and in order for me to get a good picture of what’s going on I need sensory input other than visualization, so this is where I struggled with this one. There were plenty of descriptions but it was very focused on visual descriptions rather than using all five senses. Again, for a lot of people this isn’t going to be a problem, but for me I very much so struggle with visualizing anything and I’m helped a lot by using senses other than sight. When visual descriptions are used, I respond better to vague metaphor and similes than literal descriptions of a face so long as it doesn’t go so far it turns purple. Eg: her face was like worn leather vs her tan face had wrinkles.

The world building felt very Norse/Viking inspired. The world itself is cold, there’s lots of snow and whatnot, Jarls run the place, and they have the traditional Viking burial ceremony etc. Like I mentioned earlier, the magic doesn’t really show up in the first half of the book. Once it does, it’s sort of a telepathic/Sight kind of thing where he can get inside the mind of things like cats and wander around seeing what they see. There are shamans and witches and skin crawlers, and a lot of neat stuff that I really liked. When the magic showed up halfway through I picked up the pace and read through almost to the end very quickly.

Overall, I would recommend this to people who like old school Norse stories and enjoy classic epic fantasy.


  • Plot: 10/15
  • Characters: 8/15
  • World Building: 12/15
  • Writing: 11/15
  • Pacing: 8/15
  • Originality: 10/15
  • Enjoyment: 5.5/10

Final Score: 64.5/100